Chicken Roosts: Why It’s Important to Your Hens

chickens perching

Keeping backyard chickens has become big business. Recent statistics suggest that as many as one percent of American families may now include a backyard coop or few.

The interest in keeping backyard chickens definitely relates to having healthy organic eggs and meat to eat. But increasingly, the chickens are becoming family pets as well.

Raising backyard chickens as a family project is also a great way to teach kids about the cycles of life and about caring for animals. Kids may feel especially connected to chickens they have helped to raise.

This is one of many reasons why you want to make sure you have the safest and most secure chicken roosts for your flock.

What Are Chicken Roosts: An Overview

chicken roost

A chicken roost is a perch. The word “roost” means to sit or settle or gather.

Choosing the right chicken roosts is incredibly important to the health of your flock!

Chickens are social animals, which means they have an innate genetic need to be together at all times, even during sleep.

Because of their status as a prey species, chickens have also evolved to perch up high in trees during the night. This is a safer place to sleep to evade potential predators.

Chickens also need a certain type of roosting perch in order to get good sleep. Their roost needs to be comfortable and healthy for their feet.

In summary, the ideal chicken roost should provide your chickens with all of these elements:

– Sufficiently long to accommodate multiple chickens roosting together.

– Sturdy and secure to support the weight of multiple chickens.

– Appropriate width to avoid placing stress on your chickens’ feet.

– Non-slip to prevent injury or infection to your chickens’ feet.

– Mounted high enough to offer a sense of security inside your chicken coop.

– It offers ease of access to nesting boxes in the morning.

– Reasonably easy to access and clean to maintain a sanitary roosting area.

Now that you have a basic working knowledge of what a roost is and the essential design elements, let’s take a closer look at each element of the perfect chicken roosts.

Chicken Roosts: Bar Length

chicken perching

The size of your flock and the breed of chicken you are keeping will in part determine how long your chicken roosts need to be.

For most average size adult chickens, plan for about 10 inches of bar space per bird. So if you have six birds in your flock, you will need at least 60 inches (five feet) of roosting bar space for every bird to have a place to roost.

Chicken Roosts: Bar Material

Before you can choose the best bar material for your chicken roosts, it is important to learn about how chickens perch.

Backyard birders often notice that songbirds and garden birds will wrap their toes around their perch to sit.

Chickens don’t sit like this. A chicken will sit on a roosting perch mostly flat-footed, with only the ends of the toes curling around the perch.

Chickens also rest primarily on their keel bone, which is the central bone in a chicken’s body that the flight bones are connected to.

In a research study published in Poultry Science, researchers discovered that chickens that don’t have a proper perch may develop pressure point sores or lesions on their feet and stress fractures in their keel bone.

The best bar material is always going to be natural wood because this is what chickens would roost on in a wild setting. For this reason, it is always nice to use thicker natural branches if you can find them.

However, when using prepared wood, you will need to sand it down to remove splinters and rough areas that could injure your chickens.

For older or arthritic chickens, you may want to wrap a softer material around it, such as some thick rubber, for comfort.

Chicken Roosts: Width

roosting chickens

Because chickens roost with flat feet, thinner is not better when it comes to the width of a roosting perch. But then again, too wide can cause problems as well.

For adult chickens of average size, aim for anywhere from two to two and a half inches of flat surface for perching. In an innovative research study, the British Poultry Society found that this is the perch size that was preferred by laying hens.

Slightly rounding the edges of the roosting perch can avoid abrasions and injuries, but you don’t need to create a round perch since your chickens won’t wrap their toes around the perch.

In fact, having a little more width to the perch can also guard against abrasions on the keel bone.

If you want to use natural branches from local trees or sturdy bushes, pick thicker branches that give adequate foot surface for roosting.

Chicken Roosts: Slip-Proof

Another reason why natural material is always a better choice for your chickens’ roosting perches is because it offers a more stable grip surface.

Modern plastic perches may be lighter in weight and easier to change out, but they tend to be slippery. Similarly, steel is very sanitary and easy to clean, but it can be extremely slippery and also uncomfortable during heat or cold.

Covering your natural wood perches with a layer of soft rubber, however, can help pullets (adolescent chickens) and elder hens retain a firm grip throughout the night without slipping.

Chicken Roosts: Mounting Height

roosting chicken

How high should your chicken roosts be mounted? This will depend in part on the height of your chicken coop as well as the number of chickens you are accommodating.

Ideally, your coop will be at least as tall as you are so you don’t have to stoop to enter.

For your chickens’ comfort and safety, try not to mount the lowest roost any lower than 12 inches off the ground. The lowest roost will typically be occupied by lower-ranking flock members, which may include chicks or pullets. And since chicks and pullets won’t be very experienced at roosting yet, lower roosts are also better for their safety.

For your adult laying hens, however, they will appreciate higher roosts when possible. But you want to choose a height that is appropriate for your breed of chicken. Heavier, bigger chickens won’t be able to easily fly to any roost that is higher than about 18 inches.

For smaller, lighter-weight birds, you can place your roosts higher up – two feet (24 inches) above the floor is ideal.

Chicken Roosts: Location

A research study published in British Poultry Science showed that hens preferred a roosting perch location that is nearer to the laying boxes.

Because most hens lay on a near-daily basis and first thing in the morning, offering a roost that is very near the laying boxes mean hens don’t have far to go to start pushing out their morning eggs.

This is a great video to help you learn from a chicken’s-eye view how they perceive their sleeping and roosting space. It also covers the ideal nesting box location relative to the roosting perches.

Chicken Roosts: Sanitation

Because chickens are a flocking species, they do maintain an internal pecking order.

No matter what size your flock is, the chickens occupying the “alpha” positions within the flock will always get their first choice of roosting positions. The choicest roosting positions are always the most secure and the highest roosts.

A healthy adult chicken may eliminate waste up to 15 times per day, all day and all night.

So if you have a larger flock and you need to install multiple roosting bars, you will need to find a way to stagger them so that birds perched up high won’t eliminate on birds perched lower down.

It will also be important to plan for how you can easily access and clean both the roosts and the ground below. You want to keep these areas very clean to avoid the spread of infection and disease.

Modern best practices suggest staggering the perches in a stair-step pattern and placing some kind of container or material underneath that you can remove to clean off the waste.

Summary

Chickens that have proper roosting perches for sleep and daytime use are much more likely to live longer and produce more eggs for you and your family to enjoy. And sanitary roosting perches will limit the spread of infection or mites that could harm your chickens.

Now you have all the basic information you need to construct proper chicken roosts for your flock to roost in a way that is safe and healthy.

What’s a Broody Hen and how to Stop It

broody hen

Do you have a few hens in a backyard coop or a fully-fledged operation with thousands of layers? Have you had hens since you were young? Or have you recently started it as a new hobby or business? If you have chickens, chances are you have had a broody hen!

What is a Broody Hen?

A broody hen is a hen that decides it is time to start a family! Instead of laying her daily egg and leaving the nest, she stays to keep it warm. Not only that, but she will also stay to keep the other hens’ eggs warm too!

A broody hen will sometimes even move or hide eggs to make a pile for herself to sit on. Once a hen has become ‘broody,’ she has committed herself to sit on her stash of eggs for the 21 days or so it will take them to hatch.

Other chickens may come and go and lay even more eggs on her mountain of future chicks. If you have a rooster mixed in with your population of hens, then odds are that most, if not all, of your eggs, have been fertilized.

Only fertilized eggs are able to hatch into chicks. Hens do not need to have a rooster around in order to become broody. This means that a chicken may decide to start incubating a nest of eggs even if all of the eggs have not been incubated.

How Do I know If My Hen Is Broody?

chicken brooding

All of this may seem quite adorable to the novice chicken-owner, but there are a few problems associated with being broody, including:

  • A chicken’s instinct is to incubate her eggs for the 21 days it takes for them to hatch. During that time, a broody hen may not leave her nest more than once or twice a day. When she does leave, she will not stay out long, in order to prevent her eggs from getting cold. As a result, she will eat and drink less, get less exercise and stimulation, and not get the benefit of sun and fresh air. After three weeks of malnutrition and sedentary living, broody hens may be weaker and more prone to illness than their fellow flock members.
  • Once broody hens have the number of eggs they plan to incubate, they will stop laying eggs. If you have chickens solely for the eggs, you may not appreciate the missed productivity.
  • A hen that goes broody will often use her own feathers to line her nest and make it more comfortable. Some chickens will pluck their feathers out to the point where they look very splotchy and unsightly. They often will pick out many or all of their breast feathers in order for their skin to directly contact their eggs. This leaves the broody hen more vulnerable to extreme temperatures and the possibility of pecking by other hens.

Problems With a Broody Chicken?

Other problems that can be associated with a broody hen include the following:

  • If a broody hen is hoarding eggs, freshly-laid and older eggs may be in the same pile. You may not be able to easily tell which eggs are on their way to being fully-developed chicks and which are ready to be your breakfast. Although you might be able to use a bright light to see if there is an embryo inside the egg, this is inconvenient to do for each egg. You don’t want to crack an egg with a half-grown chick into your cookie batter or omelet. Trust me.
  • A broody hen is very protective of her nest. She will keep her eggs warm and safe. If you attempt to take her eggs from her, she may peck you repeatedly, flap her wings in your face, or squawk loudly. This is not the most enjoyable way to collect your eggs!
  • A broody hen that is incubating unfertilized eggs may continue sitting on her nest well past the 21-day mark. She will keep them warm, not realizing that they will never hatch because there are no developing chicks inside. The extended period of not eating, drinking, or exercising enough can result in the hen becoming ill or even dying.

Some chicken owners may decide to allow their broody hens to sit on their nests. Maybe you feel it is time to grow your flock or replace older hens, and want to have more chicks.

Perhaps you want to give or sell baby chicks to someone else interested in hen-keeping. You might even want to nurture your broody hen’s instinct to take care of her eggs, even if you didn’t plan on having chicks this year.

Because laying hens have been bred selectively for generations to not have an instinct for raising chicks, many hens will not become broody. For people that want to have a regular way to refresh their flock, having to purchase fertilized eggs or recently-hatched chicks can get expensive.

In addition, taking care of incubating and raising baby chicks is messy and time-consuming. It is much easier to leave the hard work to the hens if you have one that has gone broody. On the other hand, if you do not want more chicks, then you may want to get your hen to stop being broody.

How Can I Stop A Broody Hen?

broody chicken

There are a number of ways you can do attempt to do this if you feel you need to. The absolute best way to handle a broody hen is to not allow them to get broody in the first place. The instinct to care for a nest of eggs is usually triggered by the presence of a pile of eggs.

By removing your flock’s eggs promptly each day, your hens will be less likely to go broody. Also, by making sure that your hens have multiple places in which to lay their eggs, eggs may be scattered instead of piled in your coop.

You can add another egg box if all of your hens’ eggs end up in the same place each day! However, if your hen is already broody, and you either do not have fertilized eggs or you do not wish for more chicks. You can choose to let it run its course and see if your hen simply gives up. Or, you can be more proactive and attempt to convince your hen to stop being broody.

Here are four tips on how to handle your broody hen, if you want your hen to stop being broody soon:

1. Removing Hens From Nest Area

Your hen’s instinct is to stay on her nest as much as possible. If you keep removing her from the nest area throughout the day, her eggs will get colder. Not only will this make any eggs non-viable, but the hen is also likely to give up and stop trying to sit on her nest.

2. Close the Nest Area

If you keep removing the eggs but your hen keeps sitting in the same location, you may need to close the nest down. Block her selected box off with cardboard or an object, so that she cannot use that area. Although she may just choose a different place to nest, she will likely decide it’s not a good time to hatch some eggs.

3. Destroy the Nesting Box

Many enthusiastic chicken farmers take pride in the comfort of their nesting boxes. They line them with straw, peat moss and other materials to make them cozy and inviting.

If you are struggling with a broody hen, however, you may want to make the nests less hospitable. Remove extra bedding and the broody hen might decide it’s not comfortable enough to sit in long-term.

4. Bring out the Broody Hens

Hens that are persistently broody, for whom the above techniques do not work, may need to be sent to Chicken Jail. Although this may seem harsh, such measures are taken to ensure that the long-term health of the hen doesn’t suffer from weeks of feather-plucking and near-starvation.

By removing the chicken from her coop and isolating her from her flock, her comfort level – and instinct to brood – will be reduced.

Isolate your broody hen in an unused coop or crate, or section them off in a section of her run. Make sure she has plentiful access to food, water, and shade, and that she is protected from the elements and predators. Put her back in her coop on a daily basis. If she immediately returns to a nesting box, put her back in ‘jail.’

Summary

Most chicken owners will encounter a broody hen at some point in time. If you do not want baby chicks or do not have fertilized eggs, then you need to take measures to prevent your hens from going broody. If your hen does go broody, you may want to act quickly so her egg production – and health – do not suffer.

Chicken Diarrhea: Causes, Treatment and Care

Chicken Diarrhea

Got chickens? When you have any type of livestock, you are responsible for their health. This includes the quality of their nutrition and the frequency of their exercise, the safety of their surroundings. It also includes the medical care that they receive. Chicken diarrhea is something that requires your intervention.

Many backyard chicken owners are new to farming in general. Often, novice hen enthusiasts go to great lengths to ensure the health and happiness of their birds. They name each member of their flock and spend time holding and petting them.

They also build creative, beautiful and Instagram-worthy sheds and runs for their comfort and enjoyment. Finally, they provide high-quality feed and snacks for their feathered friends.

These highly-prepared individuals are often ready for anything the bird-life can throw at them. But what about illness? When your hen shows the first signs of sickness, what do you do then?

Although many backyard chicken owners panic when their beloved birds seem unwell, this is not helpful. Calling a vet that specializes in livestock might be in order, but you may be able to provide your hen with the care it needs at home.

The Scoop on Chicken Poop

chicken diarea

One common sign of sickness in chickens is diarrhea. If you are new to chicken-raising, you might not yet feel confident in identifying ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ droppings. Normal, healthy chicken poop is usually firm and brown with a white cap.

In addition to this type of healthy droppings, chickens also produce several cecal droppings per day. Cecal droppings are reddish-brown and sticky but are also signs that your hen is healthy and normal. Although cecal droppings resemble diarrhea, it is just a different type of chicken poop.

If a hen has diarrhea, she will have only, or mostly, droppings that look like cecal droppings. If you see that more than a third of the poops are sticky and reddish-brown, then you will know that your hen has chicken diarrhea.

You should check the feathers and vent areas of your flock if you have multiple birds, to identify which bird is ill. A hen that has diarrhea will likely have a vent area that is red and sore, and the feathers around the vent will be pasted with dry, yellow droppings.

What Causes Chicken Diarrhea?

Just like in people, chickens can experience diarrhea for a host of reasons. Sometimes, the chicken diarrhea will pass before you are able to identify why they had it in the first place. If your hen has persistent diarrhea, however, you should ascertain the root cause of it in order to treat it properly. Some common reasons for chicken diarrhea are:

  • Poor flock management
  • Bacteria/viruses
  • Parasites

Poor Flock Management

Commonly, chicken diarrhea can result from mistakes or neglect regarding how the flock is being managed. If birds are kept too closely together, or without adequate ventilation, floor space, and access to the outdoors, they can suffer the effects of heat stress.

A symptom of heat stress is chicken diarrhea. Another cause of chicken diarrhea is vent prolapse, which can occur because of a calcium deficiency or because the bird is over- or underweight.

In many cases, vent prolapse can be prevented via providing the flock with access to proper nutrition and exercise. Other symptoms of poor flock management that can result in chicken diarrhea include excess salt intake, Hardware disease, moldy food, raw soybean meal, and toxic plants.

Hardware disease results from chickens eating sharp or toxic metal items they find in their environment.

Bacteria/Viruses

There are a handful of bacteria and viruses that can cause chicken diarrhea. More common causes are Colibacillosis, Lymphoid, leukosis, and Marek’s disease. Avian intestinal spirochetosis, avian tuberculosis, infectious coryza, and fowl cholera are additional, though less common, possibilities.

Parasites

Parasites such as Coccidiosis, threadworms, and (less commonly) Blackhead disease are often to blame for chicken diarrhea.

Treatments for Chicken Diarrhea

chicken diarhea

Important! If you suspect a hen of having a contagious disease, isolate it from the flock immediately to reduce the chance of transmission to other birds.

In order to successfully treat chicken diarrhea, it is helpful to first identify the cause. Now you better understand the potential causes of chicken diarrhea: poor flock management, viruses or bacteria, and parasites. Are you able to make a diagnosis, or at least make an educated guess, about the cause of your chicken’s diarrhea?

Poor Flock Management

Chicken diarrhea caused by poor flock management will require changes to how you are managing your flock. Simple fixes to your flock’s diet, such as reducing sodium content, increasing phosphorus, decreasing protein, increasing (or decreasing) calcium supplementation, might be all that is needed to fix the problem.

If your hens are eating too much, reduce or eliminate ‘treats’ like salad greens until diarrhea has subsided (usually in 24-36 hours).

Similarly, providing more space, shade, or access to the outdoors for your hens might resolve the issue relatively quickly, if the diarrhea was caused by heat stress. Or, you can stand her in cold water, aim a fan at her, and mix her food with cold water to help her cool down faster.

Check your feed and replace all of it if there are any signs of mold or contamination. Replace damp bedding with a fresh and dry substrate to remove concerns of mycotoxins. Also check your hens’ surroundings for any potentially toxic plants, decomposing animals, or sharp metal objects that might be ingested by curious hens.

Reminder: Always ensure your flock has ample access to fresh, clean water, especially on warm or hot days. Birds are especially susceptible to the effects of heat and require you to provide them with the proper environment to remain cool.

Bacteria/Viruses

If you suspect or know that your chicken’s diarrhea is due to bacteria, viruses, or parasites, the above treatments will not hurt. However, more might be needed to help your hen’s digestive system get back on track. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if it is a bacterial or viral infection.

Bacterial infections can be treated with the appropriate antibiotics; antibiotics may also cause diarrhea, so give your bird probiotics as well.

Antibiotics do not treat viral infections; if your hen is suspected of having a virus, provide palliative care. In cases of bacterial or viral infections, isolate your infected chicken(s) from the rest of the flock to minimize the likelihood of transmission.

Parasites

If your hen is experiencing gut damage and diarrhea due to intestinal parasites, or worms, you will need to treat your entire flock for worms. You can procure the appropriate deworming medication from your local vet or agricultural supply store.

Follow the instructions exactly and make sure not to eat or sell eggs from the treated hens for the specified length of time. Parasites like Coccidiosis usually only affect young chicks under 10 weeks of age. Chicks with Coccidiosis need to be treated promptly with a coccidiostat, probiotics, and electrolytes or they may die.

Caring for Chickens with Diarrhea

chicken diarrhea

Ensure all hens with diarrhea have plentiful access to proper food, clean water, shade, and fresh bedding. Until or unless you have been able to determine the cause of the chicken diarrhea, isolate your infected bird(s) from the remainder of your flock.

Because some chicken illnesses can be transmitted to humans, it is important to take extra precautions when handling sick chickens. It is safest to keep your hens contained outside and to not cuddle or kiss your feathered friends.

Wash your hands immediately after touching your hens, their enclosure or coop, or their eggs. Make sure to change your clothes after spending time in your chicken’s run, and do not wear your soiled shoes indoors.

As stated earlier, if a hen is being treated for a parasitic infection, refrain from eating her eggs until the indicated amount of days has passed. Many of these precautions should be taken whether or not your hen has diarrhea, as even healthy chickens can make people sick. These measures will help protect you and your family from becoming ill from your hens.

Prevention is Key: Once your feathered friends are feeling fine, consider implementing additional measures to prevent future cases of chicken diarrhea. Well-managed flocks should have ample space to roam, roost, and nest indoors and outdoors.

They have constant access to clean water and high-quality, nutritious feed. Their coops and runs are regularly disinfected and clean, fresh bedding and substrate are routinely added.

Summary

If your hens have chicken diarrhea, determine the likely culprit and take action quickly. Monitor your flock daily to identify any signs of infection early on. By removing ill, or potentially ill, birds from the flock early, you will be more likely to contain the spread of any contagious infections.

Molting Chickens: What Is It and How to Fix It

chicken molting

Chickens are the most domesticated bird in the world. There are more than sixty billion chickens, making them the most successful birds on the planet. While they have been very successful procreators, they too have vulnerable moments. In this article, we will be discussing their most vulnerable state, the molting chicken.

Molting Chickens and What that Looks Like

When the days start to get shorter and the season starts to cool down that is when you start to see the first signs of molting in your chickens. Molting season usually begins late summer and early fall. The shortening of the days is the biggest trigger for the molting process.

No matter the weather, after a year in age, chickens will molt once a year. Young spring chicks may molt several times before fall and thus skipping the normal molting season to continue their molting process the next year.

One of the first things you may begin to notice is a shorter supply of eggs. Chickens feathers are made of 85% protein. Chickens may stop laying eggs when molting to conserve protein and other vital nutrients needed in the production of feathers. Feathers are made mostly of keratin. The following list describes briefly the parts of the body you may find feathers.

  • The neck
  • The midsection
  • The wings
  • The legs
  • The tail

Do not panic. This is a natural process that happens every year. If you rely on eggs laid by your chickens, you may freeze excess supply before molting season to ensure there is not a shortage of eggs.

The more you know about molting chickens, the better prepared you will be to aid your chickens in this process. Chickens start to molt in a sequence. Beginning with the head, they lose their feathers slowly.

The shedding process then moves down from the back to the breast then to the thighs, ending with their delicate tail feathers. In the same sequence, they lose their feathers do new feathers emerge. These are called pin feathers. Pin feathers can bleed and are often painful for the bird. It is important to handle your molting chickens with care because of this.

While the sequence of shedding remains the same, molting chickens do differ in time. Most of the feathers will be shed and regrown, however, not all feathers are lost in this process. Some chickens are more efficient and only require 3-4 weeks.

Others require more time. This may depend on the amount of feathers they will be shedding. It is important to note that both hens and roosters molt. Chickens losing more feathers may require up to 13-16 weeks for molting.

Feather Anatomy

What is molting without feathers? In this passage, we will briefly discuss the anatomy of feathers so you may get an idea for how they work and why they molt. An adult hen needs about 14-17 hours of sunlight to produce an egg, thus granting the best time to molt when the days become shorter. While an opportunist, the shedding of feathers is essential to maintaining a good quality of health.

Chickens have four types of feathers each with a unique purpose. Below I have included a list of each feather type their benefit.

  • Webbed Feathers: These are the larger feather types. They help insulate rain and wind and are protective.
  • Plumules: These are smaller feathers that grow closer to the body and provide warmth.
  • Bristle Feathers: These are even smaller feathers located in the eyes, beak, and ears. These feathers help keep away pests.
  • Filoplumes: These are ever finer feathers, hairlike and soft. These feathers may have sensory or decorative features.

Once a feather is shed, the pin feathers come in. These pin feathers a covered in a protein sheath. The protein sheath is then removed in a process called preening.

While each feather may differ in size, texture, color and other variants, the anatomy stays the same. The base of a feather, the part mostly in contact with skin, is called a quill. You may know the quill from old usages of it for writing.

Next is the central shaft or rachis. This is usually curved and forms a vane. Following that is the inner vane and the outer vane. An up-curved edge is found at the bottom and a down-curved edge is found at the top of a feather leading to the feather tip. A barb, barbule, hook and catch create the most recognizable features of the feather.

How to Assist Molting Chickens

molting chickens

In the molting state, chickens are very fragile. They require more protein and are weakened by painful pin feathers pushing their way to the surface. This resembles porcupine quills and may look rather patchy. There are many ways that you can help your chickens out during this vulnerable time.

It is important to monitor your chickens to make sure they are not actually suffering from illness at this time. While monitoring your chickens, you may also want to consider intervening in their daily protein take and feed supply. With the proper nutrients and a quality diet, molting chickens can be managed safely and efficiently.

Most chicken farmers suggest at least a 16% diet of protein for chickens throughout the year. Since more protein is required during the molting process, it is suggested to increase this diet to 20-22%. A high-quality diet is required during this time.

Some recommend the free choice method of feeding as opposed to rationing when chickens are molting. While rationing feed may be economical most times of the year, free access allows the chickens to have the best chance at getting the nutrients they need for their molt.

There are other ways to provide enough protein for your molting chickens than their feed alone. Biotin is an essential vitamin for healthy bones and feather growth. You can use biotin powders by sprinkling into their feed. You may also add biotin or other supplements into their water supply. It is very important to have an abundant source of water during this time.

You may also consider other methods of protein for molting chickens. These can be offered regularly or in the form of treats. Below is a list of high protein snacks to consider for molting care.

  • mealworms: 53%-30% protein
  • cat food: 26%-30% protein
  • sunflower seeds: 26% protein
  • oats: 10%-17% protein

Alternative Tips to Help Molting Chickens

when do chickens molt

As suggested above, it is important to reiterate how fragile a chicken maybe when molting. Now that we have a good idea of how the molting process works and what nutrients may be required, we can see some alternative care tips to ensure a most successful molt.

Stress may be a huge factor in molting recovery. As we have learned molting can be a rather stressful and draining process. One way you may reduce the stress in a chicken’s environment is by not introducing new, un aquatinted birds. Chickens are highly social animals.

Because of this, they are great for domestication. While very social, each new chicken may induce stress on the flock and may disorient their highly established pecking order. It is a good idea to understand the social nuances of your animals.

Another great tip is to handle with care. As much as possible avoid handling molting chickens. As discussed earlier, the porcupine-like pin feathers are quite painful. They are supplied with blood when coming in. They often bleed and are very sensitive to touch.

It is great to monitor your birds during this time, but avoid touching them. Handle only when necessary and with great care. Luckily it is easy to see the most sensitive areas so you may avoid them.

If a patch is bald, it may mean the pin feathers are coming in and are just below the surface. Each bird may vary with the time it takes to grow new feathers, but you will be able to see where they will be coming in.

Since water is very important for molting chickens, you may want to consider adding a variety of water drinkers to your coup. This, accompanied by a free choice method of feeding, may allow your chickens to choose their appropriate nutrients.

For example, adding Apple Cider Vinegar to one drinker and supplements to another drinker adds variety and improves health. You can add other supplements to each drinker in order to create variety and choice during the molt.

Summary

In summary, a little bit of patience can go a long way. Be kind to your molting chickens. These are very social creatures. Offering them support both environmentally and nutritiously can go a long way in the renewal process. Remember that this is a natural cycle. With your support, your chickens will be back producing eggs in no time!

Why Do Roosters Crow?

why do roosters crow

Crowing is a behavior that is inseparably tied to roosters. Whether depicted in a cartoon, a book, or a movie with a rural setting, if you see a rooster it almost certainly about to crow. However, rarely do we take the time to ask why roosters behave this way.

While we like to think of roosters as nature’s unwanted alarm clocks, the psychology and motivation behind their crowing behavior are quite complex. There is not a single impetus driving a rooster to crow. Let’s take a look at the myriad of reasons that cause a rooster to sing their distinctive song.

What are the three primary reasons why a rooster crows?

  • Finding a Mate
  • Threatening Predators
  • Announcing Their Territory
  • For Fun

Let’s take a look at each of these fascinating behaviors in more detail.

To Attract a Mate

why do roosters crow in the morning

As with a vast majority of seemingly-strange animal behavior, one of the primary motivations for roosters to crow is to attract a mate. While our human ears struggle to detect and nuances between calls, scientists have analyzed the crows of distinct roosters and found that each rooster has a slightly different crow.

Thus, many researchers have concluded that the slight changes between each rooster are used as a method of impressing potential mates and out-gunning competing roosters.

The number of changes is extensive. Many roosters like to introduce a warbling effect into the calls as a sign of complexity and health. Further, the length of the song itself will vary between animals. While a rooster’s crow may seem arbitrary to many listeners, they are playing a distinct and repeatable song.

Depending on the rooster, this repetition may occur as often as every two minutes, or as infrequently as every ten. While the studies have no been wholly conclusive, it appears that hens tend to me more quickly attracted to roosters that exhibit longer and more complex songs.

Beyond the complexity of the call, there is also a much simpler variable: volume. One of the key differences in the crows of different roosters is how long they can become. While not always true, a larger rooster can typically produce a higher maximum volume compared to a smaller specimen. Thus, exhibiting a higher volume is a means by which roosters can brag about their size, strength, and health.

This effect is amplified when multiple roosters are within the hearing range of each other. When placed in the vicinity of another rooster, roosters tend to increase the volume of their crowing. This often results in a kind of competition between the males, resulting in a back-and-forth battle with increasing volume each round.

In extreme instances, agitated roosters have been known to damage their lungs or vocal cords in an attempt to out-shine another rooster. They are liable to become so engrossed in outperforming the other, and winning the affection of a mate, that they forget any self-preservation instincts and overwork themselves. While they typically recover from these episodes, the damage can sometimes be permanent.

The issue of volume has two components. First, if asked to choose between two roosters, a hen is likely to choose the larger and more aggressive male. Thus, showing an ability to out-crow their competition is an advantage to winning a mate. However, the issue can be much simpler.

Chickens are fairly simplistic animals who are often distinctly indiscriminate in their mate selection. Combined with their poor hearing, a hen will often choose the first viable mate she encounters. Therefore, sometimes the matter of crowing loudly comes down to being heard first, rather than impressing anyone.

As Threatening Behavior

why roosters crow

Despite their flashy looks and imposing talons, roosters are surprisingly vulnerable creatures. While they can technically fly, their ability to fly long distances or with any agility is extremely limited. Further, they have limited natural defense mechanisms.

Though they do have a rudimentary ability to fight with other animals by using the talons or beaks, they are simply no match for many predators. Thus, if they are poised with being attacked by a pigeon or other small animal, a rooster will be able to respond with force. However, any larger animals require the rooster to become more creative.

When confronted with a predator, roosters use a shock-and-awe approach to scaring away the other animal. This is a simple learned response based upon their limited options. If being attacked, a rooster will try to make itself look and sound as large as possible. This includes inflating its chest, raising its wings, and crowing as loudly as possible.

This call is often distinct from the mating call discussed above. A warning or threatening crow will be higher-pitched, more repetitive, and louder. Unlike a mating call, the goal is not to be artistic or to display their nuanced creativity. When under attack, the rooster’s goal is simple: make as much noise as possible.

You can often hear the differences yourself. While a typical mating call will have a great amount of tone variation and melodic variation, a threatening call is more simplistic. Generally, a rooster trying to use intimidation will alternate back and forth between one or two tones, similar to a police siren. When it comes to warding off an attack, the volume is the only goal.

Announcing Their Territory

why does a rooster crow

Unlike hens, which are primarily communal and docile animals, roosters are fiercely territorial. Thus, marking their territory is one of the primary reasons why a rooster may crow. In any given community, there will be much fewer roosters than hens. Hens often outnumber their male equivalents by over a hundred to one.

Therefore, roosters are allowed to rule a fairly large range of territory. A typical rooster will lay claim to an area of roughly an acre. It considers this range to be its property and will become disturbed if its land is intruded on by another male bird.

Crowing for territorial reasons takes on two forms. A rooster will often seek to remind other birds in the area that a certain portion of land is its territory. This is generally the function of the “alarm clock” morning crowing that roosters are so well known for. When crowing for this reason, a rooster will attempt to find the highest perch possible.

Normally, this will be a tree or fence post. Then, the rooster will project out into its territory. This call normally resembles its mating song, but with even more embellishments added. In fact, territorial marking will often have the secondary effect of attracting a mate.

However, roosters will also crow to protect their territory. If another rooster invades the area that a rooster considers its own, then an average rooster will not be shy about letting the intruder know it is not welcome. The offended rooster will approach the intruder aggressively with its wings flapping and beak open.

Then, the rooster will let out a loud screeching noise. Unlike a mating call or predator defense, this is a much higher-pitched tone, sounding almost like a smoke alarm. A rooster can only maintain this tone for a few seconds before exhausting its voice. Thus, if a rooster becomes incapacitated in this confrontation, the other rooster will often take a claim to the new territory.

For the Fun of It

why do rooster crow

The final reason that roosters crow is also the most wholesome. They simply seem to enjoy it. Scientists observing roosters in the wild noticed that they often appear to crow without any stimulation or apparent reason. A rooster in isolation will crow regardless of light conditions, other birds, or barometric pressure. Thus, the most plausible explanation is that roosters will often crow simply for fun.

Yet again, the style of their song changes when they are crowing for mere recreation. Roosters appear to use this time as a chance to experiment. Thus, a “play” song will rarely be the same twice. Rather, they will vary their tone and melody in an attempt to perfect their mating or aggression calls.

Their behavior during these periods is fascinating. When practicing a happy song, a rooster can often be seen dancing or hopping playfully. However, when practicing a predator or territorial call, they will emulate the aggressive stance as if there was an actual threat. Thus, it appears that roosters are capable of rudimentary role-play that they use to practice their crows.

Finally, roosters will often crow without meaning to. Whenever a rooster is startled, they will commonly let out an involuntary “gasp” noise in the form of a crowing song. Roosters have even been observed to crow while sleeping, similar to a person speaking in their sleep.

Conclusion

So, why do roosters crow? Roosters do not crow just to signal the rising sun. Rather, a roosters crow is an important adaptation that assists it with almost every aspect of their lives.

Thus as a person’s tone of voice may change depending on the circumstance, so too will a roosters song change for varying purposes. So next time you hear a lone rooster crow, spend some time thinking about what it might be trying to say.

Chicken Anatomy: Everything You Need To Know

chicken anatomy

When working with chickens it is important to understand them. The first step to working with chickens is knowing their anatomy. The word anatomy is derived from a Greek word that means “to cut up.” Anatomy is the structure of animals and their functions. It is amazing to see the comparable things found in both chicken and human anatomy. There are certain aspects of chicken anatomy to point out.

  • Skin and feathers
  • Bones, wings, and legs
  • Reproductive system
  • Digestive system
  • Respiratory system

Skin and Feathers

Four different terms describe the location of anatomy parts on a chicken. The first term is dorsal. Dorsal is the section of a chicken that pertains to the uppers surface area. The ventral section of a chicken is the lower part of a chicken including the abdominal surface.

The cranial section pertains to the head of a chicken. The last term used is the caudal, also known as the posterior. The caudal applies to the rear section of the chicken including the tail. The skin and feathers of a chicken can be found in all four sections of its body.

Many people don’t understand that the feathers of a bird have different functions. Although they can seem like just a covering on their skin, they are vital to keeping a bird healthy.

The first thing to point out about a bird’s feathers is obvious. A bird’s feathers are essential for them to fly. This may not evident in all types of birds. There are some birds such as chickens who may only fly short distances.

hen anatomy

Feathers are comparable to mammals’ fur. The feathers of a bird help to keep them warm when the weather begins to get chilly. They also help to shelter the bird from mother nature. Molting occurs in chickens after they are a year old. This is when a bird sheds feathers and grows new ones.

This will happen yearly and take from 8 to 12 weeks. Plumage pertains to the outside feathers on a chicken. Due to a chicken not having any sweat glands, the plumage helps to cool a chicken down in heat as well.

Another important part of a chicken that helps with protection is their skin. The skin is also a form of insulation for the bird and monitors different sensory functions of the bird. There are many different kinds of skin found on a chicken.

Feathered skin is the skin that gives the feathers direction to grow. Scaled skin is what is on the feet and legs. The footpad is another type of skin at the base of the foot for protection. Many people do not know that the beak and toenails of a bird are also skin.

They’re made from hardened keratin. The chicken uses its beak to eat and drink. The last type of skin is the wattles and comb. These are parts of a bird that begin to grow when a bird hits maturity. The wattle of a chicken is the red growth found underneath its beak.

The comb of a chicken is the red section of the skin found on the top of the chicken’s head. The comb and wattle work together. The blood circulation between these two parts of a chicken is what helps to regulate its temperature. The comb of a chicken comes in many different sizes.

A larger comb means that there is more testosterone present within the bird. Large combs usually point to the chicken being a male. Extra skin also includes its second sexual appendages created from sex hormones within the animal.

Bones, Wings, and Legs

anatomy of a chicken

The first thing people think of about a bird is their wings.

The bones of a chicken have a combination of three substances. This includes collagen, phosphorus, and calcium. Like a human’s bones, a chicken’s bones they give the chicken protection and support their bodies.

A chicken’s bones should have a large amount of all three substances. In the case of a chicken having low calcium, eggs produced could have soft eggshells. Sometimes the deficiency can lead to no eggshell produced at all. It is also possible that low calcium will result in the inability to produce eggs.

There are two different types of bones within a chicken’s body. The pneumatic bones connect to the respiratory system. These bones are hollow. Examples of pneumatic bones are collar bones, arm bones, the skull, and the pelvis. The other type of bones within a skeletal system is the medullary bones.

These bones contain bone marrow and store calcium. Examples of medullary bones are the ribs, shoulder blades, and legs. The chicken has flexible bones within its backbone and neck. There are a total of 39 bones within a chicken’s spine. This helps protect the skull and gives a chicken the ability to turn their heads 180 degrees.

The largest bone within the bird’s body is the sternum. This bone covers half of a bird’s body. The wings of a bird attached to the sternum of the bird. Chickens were able to fly better in the past, but due to humans breeding them, this ability has decreased.

In the past, the muscles that attached the wings and the sternum were very strong. As breeding continued, they got weaker and weaker.

Reproductive System

anatomy of a rooster

Everyone knows that chickens lay eggs, chicken has a reproductive system like all birds. Within this shell, the chick has all the nutrition they need to survive until it is time to hatch. This makes it easy for a mother to leave the nest to find food. A female chicken lays one egg at a time. It’s understood that there is a high chance that some may not survive to hatch.

When they hatch chickens are fully developed. This means that hatchlings can stand and even walk when they hatch. This helps the mother from having to care for them so much. A hen has only one functional ovary.

Although a female chicken lays the egg it is the rooster who needs to fertilize it for the chick to form. A rooster is born with two functioning testes. These both produce sperm daily so that he can fertilize many eggs a day.

When a hen and rooster mate his sperm sits within the hen’s oviduct. The hen can either decide to keep the sperm or expel it. The sperm is viable within the hen’s oviduct for an estimate of 30 days. When the hen lays an egg it’s fertilized.

Digestive System

Like a human, a chicken has a digestive system. However, that is where the comparison ends. The first thing to point out is the fact that chickens do not have any teeth. Instead, they have a beak that they use to break their food into smaller particles.

Once a chicken swallows’ food it travels to the crop. The crop is a storage compartment that holds the food at bay until it is time for the food to travel to the chicken gizzard. The crop comes in handy because many birds ingest a lot of food at once so that they can use it in times of danger.

Like a human, a chicken has a stomach. It is here where digestion takes place. The stomach breaks down the food when enzymes mix with food to soften it in its course to the gizzard.

Once the food becomes a thick-like food substance it travels through the intestines. Proteins and more enzymes push the substance through the digestive system. The proteins and enzymes come from the liver, pancreas, and stomach. The substance continues until it goes through the ceca. Afterward, it goes through tubes where the water’s absorbed and it becomes waste.

Respiratory System

what does a chicken look like

The respiratory system is different from mammals. A mammal has a diaphragm which is used to breathe by inflating and deflating the lungs. A chicken as nine different air sacs. These sacks are found in the chicken’s neck.

The air sacs inflate the lungs and move air in and out of the chicken’s body. The chicken has things called nares. Nares are nostrils found in its beak. Their job is to give air access to move within the trachea and back out of its body.

The respiratory system has two different phases when they breathe. The first phase is inhalation. As a human, this is when the chicken breathes the air in. However, in chickens, the air goes through the posterior air sacs first.

While this process occurs the air from the previous inhalation fills the anterior air sacs. The second phase is called the exhalation. This is when the air is released from the posterior air sacs and into the lungs. The air from the anterior sacs is then released out of the body through the trachea.

Summary

The anatomy of a chicken is very complex. It has some functions and parts that are comparable to a human’s anatomy. There are also many differences between chicken and human anatomy. If a person plans on being around chickens, it is important to understand their anatomy.

How Long Do chickens Live: Factors That Impact Lifespan

how long do chickens live

Chickens are peculiar creatures that are loved by many. Whether you are thinking about owning chickens or are just curious about them, you may have a few questions. One of your top questions may be, “How long does a chicken live?”. While the answer may seem cut and dry, that is not actually the case. We will dive into the chicken lifespan and some major things that can impact that lifespan.

History of a Chicken’s Life Expectancy

Chickens were not originally bred to be pets. Chickens, specifically hens, were bred so that they could help feed a family or provide a family with a source of income. These chickens were bred from wild birds.

The breeder of the wild birds would choose which birds would produce the most favorable offspring. This process would then continue. The goal was to breed out the wild behaviors of the birds and produce a bird that produced a quality food source.

What Factors Affect Life Expectancy?

chicken lifespan

Today, a backyard chicken can live anywhere from three to ten years. The chicken lifespan can vary depending on a variety of different factors. These factors can be related to breed or may be related to the level of care that the chicken receives. The top factors that affect the chicken lifespan are listed below.

Disease

One of the greatest factors influencing the chicken lifespan is disease. Flocks of chickens may succumb to parasites, including mites, lice, and worms. These parasites can cause a chicken to become uncomfortable and even fall ill. This could even lead to the death of a chicken.

While there are some diseases that cannot be prevented, advanced technology has led to many preventative options for chicken owners. These preventative measures may include frequent cleanings or inspections of the flock.

You may also perform regular preventative maintenance to individual chickens. In theory, the more closely your flock is watched, the healthier they will be.

How They Are Housed

How you plan on sheltering your chickens will make a difference in their lifespan. If they have nowhere to go or are housed with other animals, many things could happen to your chickens. This includes becoming too cold and freezing to death or being crushed by other animals.

Without proper shelter, your chickens may also be exposed to the elements or to predators, hindering the chicken lifespan. However, not every housing arrangement is an optimal one. Chickens that are kept on commercial farms generally suffer more from respiratory illness and have a limited quality of life.

It is typically recommended that chicken owners find a suitable coop to help house their flock. This will provide them adequate shelter from predators and allow them access to the outdoors at their leisure for them to breathe fresh air.

Their Environment

What environment your chicken is living will affect how long they live. You could utilize a quality coop for your chickens, but if the environment containing that coop or the surrounding environment is negative then this will negatively impact your chickens.

For example, you do not want to place a chicken coop in a horse barn or a warehouse. Instead, you want to place the coop somewhere where the chicken has access to clean and fresh air that circulates. The area should also be relatively dry and be able to keep the chicken warm.

A chicken kept in dirty and unkept conditions is more susceptible to illness or medical issues. A healthy and clean environment will help the chicken lifespan last longer.

Tips for a Healthy and Happy Chicken Coop

lifespan of a chicken

Having a great chicken coop for your chickens can sound like a daunting task. However, it does not have to be challenging. With these helpful tips, you will be sure to have a healthy and happy chicken coop for years to come for your chickens to enjoy.

  • When deciding on bulbs, always choose red. This is because red bulbs will not show any bloody spots on a chicken, preventing pecks from other chickens.
  • When there are chicks present, block off any corners. This will help to prevent suffocation.
  • Waterers need to be kept shallow and clean to avoid chicks drowning.

What They Eat

Chickens have a much better diet than they did fifty to a hundred years ago. Chickens in those times lived on whatever morsels they could scrounge up, which typically was not much. Nowadays, chicken feed is manufactured. This provides chicken owners with an easy way to supply their chickens with the nutrition that they need.

Chicken food can also be found for every stage of a chicken lifespan. However, overfeeding your chicken can also cause an issue. Overweight chickens can not only cause the chicken some discomfort but can also prove to be life-threatening.

Weight issues can lead to leg problems and even respiratory issues. You will want to make sure that you are feeding your chickens the proper amount and watching their treat intake as well.

Veterinary Care

Prior to the 20th century, the welfare of the chicken was not often considered. These backyard animals were looked at as disposable and their health was not taken into account. Nowadays, advancements in poultry medicine and recognition of certain health issues have made the quality of life of the chicken better.

The study of issues related to chickens is ongoing, providing chicken owners with preventative measures to take proper care of their flock. If your hen is experiencing a serious health issue, you will want to bring your chicken to the vet that sees barnyard patients.

If you are planning on owning chickens, it is important to read up on issues that commonly affect them. This way, you will be able to identify a serious issue if it arises. This will also allow you the ability to provide first-aid care for your flock. Your flock may need tended to, but do not need to visit the vet.

They may need to be administered medication, have their feet cared for, or have a wound taken care of. Minor issues can be addressed at home, while serious issues will need to be addressed by a vet.

How Long do Chickens Lay Eggs?

how long do chickens live for

When a chicken starts laying eggs can varying, depending on several factors. However, chickens generally start laying eggs around the time they are 18 weeks old. Shorter windows of daylight may cause a chicken to not lay as many eggs. This is especially true when it is the winter months, as the days are usually colder and darker.

Chickens that are healthy will usually lay eggs for around two to three years. Egg laying will begin to slow down after this time frame and then taper off. During this period of less egg laying, the eggs may be larger. If you are wanting something more specific, you can read our article: How often do chicken laying eggs.

What to Do When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Once a chicken has stopped laying eggs, there are a few different options you have. Even though a chicken has stopped laying eggs, you may still use her to contribute in other ways to your flock or to keep around as a companion chicken.

A chicken that is older will still be a great bug catcher and could help control the weeds in your garden. Older chickens will also help to keep eggs warm or raise chicks, providing the flock with more experience than the younger hens may have.

You may also decide that once a hen has stopped producing eggs that it will be time to use the chicken for meat. While older chickens generally have tougher meat, the meat will still be useful for stew or other dishes. However, if it is the winter time, you may choose to wait. Generally in the spring, hens will begin laying once again.

3 Popular Breeds and Their Life Expectancy

When deciding on what chickens to have in your flock, you may have considered one of these three breeds. Listed below are three of the most popular breeds and their chicken lifespan.

Rhode Island Red

chicken life spans

Rhode Island Red are some of the most popular chickens and you have most likely seen them before. This type of chicken can live around 8 years. They are most common for beginners or those who wish to keep chickens for a long time. Read more about Rhode Island Red.

Golden Comets

how long does a chicken live

Golden Comets are most well-known for how many eggs that they produce. They typically produce an egg a day. However, these chickens are more prone to developing reproductive issues. They can live up to five years old. Read more about Golden Comet.

Easter Egger

chickens life span

Easter Egger are a hybrid type of hen and are sought after due to their eggs that are laid in a variety of colors. Since they do not lay as many eggs as the Golden Comets, they generally have a longer chicken lifespan. Easter Egger can live around 8 years old. Read more about Easter Egger.

Summary

Chickens are fascinating creatures that can make excellent backyard pets or utilized as a barnyard animal. Whichever the case, proper care of your chicken will ensure that it lives out its chicken lifespan properly.

How Long Do Chickens Lay Eggs

how long do chickens lay eggs

The trend of producing one’s own food has brought the farm into the city. One such area that has grown in recent years is the keeping of backyard chickens for fresh eggs. Once people have tasted just how much better “home-grown” eggs are, they never want to go back to plain old store eggs.

Like any keeping of livestock, though, people must plan ahead so that they have a steady supply of eggs, as hens have a limited working life span. How long do chickens lay eggs?

There are several factors that affect the production of eggs by a hen:

  • Breed – Varieties bred as layers will produce more consistently than meat varieties. Some varieties produce larger amounts for a shorter time, while others have a longer laying span with a lower peak production.
  • Age – Once mature, around five months of age, a hen will lay an egg roughly every day and a half until she is around two or three years old, after which production tapers off.
  • Rooster to Hen Ratio – Multiple roosters will vie for dominance, stressing the hens, making them produce less.
  • Housing – Hens kept in a safe area with adequate lighting and access to shelter will lay longer.
  • Diet – A steady supply of eggs requires a proper, balanced diet to be consistently fed.

Choosing your Breed

chicken that lays eggs

In the above list, age and breed of chicken are the top determiners of how long a hen will lay. Breed determines how long an individual chicken will produce. Large-scale producers use varieties that begin to lay at 16 to 18 weeks.

The chickens produce large amounts of eggs for a year and a half or two before laying drops dramatically. Examples of this kind of chicken are Lohmann Brown, Black Star, and Freedom Ranger.

On the other hand, heritage breeds mature more slowly, beginning to lay at 20 weeks. These chickens produce fewer eggs, but they do so longer than production breeds. Thus they are a good choice for backyard egg production.

Varieties in this category include Rhode Island Red, Fayoumi, Barnevelder, and Barred Rock. These breeds lay consistently for three to four years on average, but Rhode Island Red chickens have been strong producers even at 5 or 6 years, with some still laying at 7 or 8 when living in optimal conditions.

Some breeds are known for particularly high disease resistance, which has a positive effect on their laying lifespan. Please note that there are variations in egg production among breeds in this category. Read up on average egg production for any breed that interests you so that you are not mistakenly disappointed by a low yield.

Put a lot of work into planning for your flock. If possible, buy chickens from different breeds and both categories to ensure that you have a steady supply of eggs as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Mix Black Star, for example, with Rhode Island Reds and Australorps so that you are not stuck waiting for a new shipment of chicks to mature and start laying.

Provide a Comfortable Coop

chicken that lays eggs

A good coop is necessary for chicken safety; after all, if a predator grabs one, it will not be laying for you. The predators also stress chickens, causing them to lay less.

This coop also makes gathering eggs much easier and is considered necessary for flightier breeds, such as Fayoumi, that would otherwise leave eggs in random spots in your yard for an unpleasant surprise later. There are many ways to build coops, but there are foundational features that you need to include for a productive flock:

  • Enough space, 5-8 square feet per bird if fully confined
  • Light to stimulate egg production, around 16 hours a day
  • Insulation for cold weather, if needed
  • Adequate ventilation to prevent ammonia buildup and its nasty consequences
  • Proper flooring that is easily washed, such as plywood covered with Tyvek
  • Nest boxes, which should have an opening of 10 by 10 inches and be easily accessible
  • Roosting perches, so they can sleep safely

When you see to the comfort of your chickens in their coop, they will lay for years, going to the end of the range with ease.

Above all, make sure you keep the coop clean and in good repair. A clean, safe environment takes much stress from your chickens’ lives so that their energy is directed in a useful way, that is to say, egg laying.

Ensure that your chickens have as much space as possible to roam. After all, the term “cooped up” has negative connotations. If you have the space, let your chickens run free during the day.

Some people who a raising chickens in a more suburban or urban environment confine chickens to a fenced-in spot or use a chicken tractor or portable run so that they know where their chickens are at all times.

The recommended wire mesh size is a half inch square, as that will keep out most predators, even smaller snakes. If desired, you can add roofing to keep your chickens out of talon’s reach.

Chickens require food to make eggs, but what should it be? A laying diet needs large amounts of protein and calcium, much of which comes from commercial poultry pellets. These pellets have a grain and seed base and should comprise around 16 percent of the diet.

The rule of thumb is that four pounds of feed will be needed for one dozen eggs. The calcium comes from a supplemental source supplied separately. If your chickens have little room to peck and roam, it is particularly important to ensure their food has everything they need.

Even with free-range chickens, there are a number of things you can add to their diet to ensure a productive working life. Most fruit and vegetable scraps are a dandy way to get your birds more minerals.

The only forbidden ones are raw green peels, such as those from potatoes, and citrus fruits. Processed whole grains, such as pastas, are also part of a healthy diet. Make sure you use high-quality feed that, if possible, is organic, as certain hazardous chemicals have a negative effect on health and egg production.

Chickens also enjoy a treat now and then. Foods that are often used as such range from what you’d consider eating, like apples, broccoli, and pumpkin, to downright gross, like worms.

Feeding to lay strong

chicken eggs production

In general, your chicken can eat what you do, but there are exceptions. Never give anything fatty, sugary, or salty, such as highly processed snack foods. Rhubarb, avocado, and garlic are not good for them and should never be put in the feed trough. If you do, your bird will not lay eggs for long.

Food should be presented in a proper fashion. Although the image of scattering grain on the ground is popular, it is not always a good way to feed chickens. If your chickens are confined for some reason, invest in a feeding trough to dispense their food.

In doing so, rather than simply scattering seed, you will not mix feed and droppings. This prevents nasty parasitic infections, such as coccidiosis, from starting, spreading, and eventually killing your chickens by malnutrition.

Chickens need a lot of water to produce eggs. Make sure that they have access to a steady supply of clean water. If neglected, you will have to wait around a week for them to begin laying again.

Protect hens

Hens will lay eggs without the presence of a rooster; one is needed certainly if you plan on breeding your hens. However, their presence can sometimes cause problems. In fact, too many roosters increase the stress of the flock by their fights for dominance, stressing the chickens and decreasing the amount of eggs they lay.

The optimal ratio is one rooster per six to nine hens. If you keep around a single rooster for six to nine hens, he will warn the flock when predators come, giving them time to find cover. They will also take on predators occasionally, keeping your chickens from an untimely demise.

YouTube comments are replete with stories of roosters who died to protect their flock from hawks and the like. Having a rooster or two is having a built-in warning system and guard.

Summary

Many people enjoy chickens in their yard. The thought of enjoying fresh, tasty eggs makes the work worthwhile for many. How long do chickens lay eggs that owners can enjoy? In general, it is around two to three years before production tapers off.

However, by seeing to the cleanliness and comfort of the chickens’ surroundings, you can make the most of those years and possibly extend them. Some breeds lay more than others, but a clean, low-stress environment will do any chicken good, regardless of age or breed.

What Do Baby Chicks Eat?

what does chicks eat

Raising chickens from hatchlings to adult hens provides numerous benefits; chickens provide pest-control and weed-control, offer a means for easily disposing of kitchen scraps, produce natural fertilizer that is great for gardens and flowerbeds, and, of course, can offer a ready supply of fresh, tasty eggs and nutritious, all-natural meat.

But to get those benefits, you need to start them off the right way with the proper diet that they need as chicks.

Chicks grow rapidly in their first few weeks and so require correctly formulated food to ensure healthy development. So what do baby chicks eat? And why is the right diet important for them? These guidelines can help make sure that you are feeding them what they need when they need it.

Feeding Newly Hatched Chicks

What do chicks eat when they first come out of their shells? The answer might surprise you: nothing. For the first 48 hours after they hatch, baby chickens require no food or water. They are still being sustained by the nutrients from the egg yolk, which their body has absorbed and is still processing up until they break out of the shell.

After the chick has hatched, it should be allowed to rest and dry out in the incubator for six to 12 hours before being moved into the brooder, where food and drink are first introduced.

Beginning with Starter Feed

what do baby chicks eat

Baby chicks should not be fed adult chicken food: adult food lacks sufficient protein to help the chicks grow and remain healthy in their critical, vulnerable early weeks. Adult food is also too high in calcium for baby chicks; consuming too much calcium can lead to serious medical complications in young chickens, including an untreatable and potentially fatal form of kidney damage.

Baby chicks should be started on what is known as “starter feed” or, sometimes, “chick crumb”.

This commercially available chicken feed is designed to balance precisely the nutrients that baby chicks require, including an optimal range of between 15% and 20% protein, as well as amino acids for development, prebiotics and probiotics for immune health, and vitamins and minerals for bone health.

The best brands of starter feed are organic and non-GMO, containing only natural ingredients and no artificial fillers, preservatives, or chemicals. Most are available from a local feed or farm store, or they can be ordered online from specialty retailers.

Ideally, the starter feed that you use for your baby chicks should contain only unprocessed whole grains. Avoid the products that are filled out with soy and corn, which can provide a great deal of starch but very little nutritional benefit to your chicks.

You might be tempted to try making your own starter feed at home, but the risks of doing this are high. Baby chicks require a very precisely balanced diet to ensure their proper development, and their young digestive systems are not tolerant of much deviation from that diet.

If you mix the feed incorrectly, you could seriously harm your chick or cause long-term developmental damage. Malnourished baby chicks seldom grow into productive egg-layers or bulk up enough to be suitable as meat sources.

First Days in the Brooder

what can baby chicks eat

When you move the baby chicks into the brooder, you should already have a container with fresh, clean water for them. In some cases, sugar, vitamins, or mineral supplements might be added to the chick’s water for the first day or two.

Use a container that cannot be knocked over and has an opening designed to prevent waste from getting in and contaminating the water supply, and that will keep chicks from falling in and drowning. Make sure that it stays filled at all times and that the water remains clean.

Both chicks and adult chickens will drink twice as much water as the amount of food that they eat, so having a ready water source is essential.

Water should be at room temperature (so do not place it under heat lamps in the brooder) and should be supplied at a rate of two quarts per every 10 chicks, separated into containers no larger than one quart each. On a daily basis, empty, wash, and refill the water containers.

Towards the end of their first day in the brooder, or early on the second day, sprinkle some grains of feed into the brooder. Some chicks may not show an interest at first—baby chicks spend most of their first few days sleeping and building up energy after the exhausting process of breaking out of their shells.

Eventually, however, they will become curious about the sound of the feed being dropped in and will investigate it.

Once they have taken to the feed—usually by their third day in the brooder—set out low-lying or trough feeders for easy access (clean egg cartons, cut in two, work well), providing four linear inches of space in the feeder per baby chick.

Do not place them under the heat lamps in the brooder. Empty, clean, and refill the feeder daily, and keep a close eye on it to make sure that it stays supplied and does not become contaminated by waste or water. As the chicks grow, raise the level of the feeders so they are even with the bird’s backs.

Moving Beyond Starter Feed

what to feed baby chicks

Avoid giving baby chicks any special treats in their first two weeks in the brooder. It is essential during this period that they mainly eat the nutritionally balanced starter feed. Introducing treats too early will make them less likely to desire the starter feed and may even confuse them about what the taste and smell of food should be.

If you do introduce treats, remember that the baby chick’s digestive system is still very delicate and prone to disruption. Start with mild and healthy snacks, like a lettuce leaf hung up in the brooder, some oatmeal scattered in the brooder, or some corn kernels chopped up very small.

When you do introduce snacks, it is also essential that you provide the baby chicks with a ready supply of grit in a separate container inside the brooder. This fine granular substance is swallowed into the chicken’s gizzard, where it works with the power of the organ’s muscle contractions to mash up food into a digestible slurry.

Commercially produced grit made of sand, granite, or parakeet can be obtained and is specially formulated in size and composition for baby chicks. Do not give grit formulated for adult birds to baby chicks. Never feed ground up oyster shells to baby chicks; the high levels of calcium in the shells will result in potentially deadly damage to the bird’s kidneys.

At eight weeks of age, baby chicks should be shifted off the starter feed and in its place, they should be given “grower feed” (at this age, they can also explore more complex snacks, like worms, bugs and chicken scratch).

To help chicks make this transition, mix starter feed and grower feed together, gradually shifting the proportion of the combination towards more and more grower feed over a couple of weeks.

Grower feed provides less protein than starter feed (typically about 16%). Chickens should continue on the grower feed until they reach the start of their laying age, which is usually around 18 to 21 weeks of age, depending on the breed.

Whether or Not to Use Medicated Food

what do you feed baby chickens

Medicated feed is fortified with a medication—usually amprolium—that helps chickens combat the common, and potentially deadly, parasitic intestinal disease coccidiosis.

Baby chicks that have been vaccinated against coccidiosis already, either by a veterinarian or by a commercial hatchery, must not be fed medicated feed as it will kill off the coccidiosis strain in the vaccine and render the bird susceptible to the disease.

Baby chicks who are kept in a clean brooder that is regularly emptied of waste and provides plenty of space are less likely to contract coccidiosis and so generally do not require medicated feed.

Chicks who are raised in cramped conditions, such as factory farms or in household settings that involve more than 50 chicks in one space, are likely to contract the disease and thus should be given medicated feed. Some medicated feeds contain antibiotics, but these should only be used under instructions from a livestock veterinarian.

Feeding Sick Baby Chicks

Ensuring that sick, malnourished, or underdeveloped baby chicks are properly hydrated is the first priority. Use a dropper or a spoon and, if necessary, water fortified with electrolytes.

The finely chopped-up hard-boiled egg can provide sick baby chicks with a boost of protein and many of the nutrients that their body needed to absorb when it was inside the egg. These can help it start to recover its stamina and eventually shift to starter feed.

Do Hens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster?

how do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Chickens make great backyard pets and the fact that they give back by delivering fresh, delicious eggs only adds to the allure of keeping them.

When you are looking forward to the moment when your chickens begin laying eggs it can be anxiety-inducing wondering when that moment is going to come and what specific requirements are needed to get things going.

Do hens lay eggs without a rooster? This all depends on what you intend to accomplish with your egg-laying. There are a few factors to consider.

General Expectations in Egg Laying

There are a few different elements that can play a role in whether your chickens will come “of age,” allowing them to lay eggs. Nutrition, environment, breed, and age can all help determine when your chickens will begin laying eggs. You will not require the assistance of a rooster for your chickens to produce eggs unless you specifically want to fertilize and hatch your eggs.

If you are looking to hatch eggs and produce more chickens, then you will require the assistance of a rooster. Otherwise, your eggs will never be fertilized.

However, the best setup is always one single solitary rooster and if you begin hatching your own eggs there is a chance you will hatch more roosters which may eventually grow up and fight with one another. The best reason to hatch eggs is for sustenance. Since the eggs we eat are not fertilized a rooster is not actually required.

There are a number of more essential factors when it comes to egg-laying beyond simply the presence of a rooster. While the presence of a rooster in the flock may help to encourage egg-laying, it is certainly not a determinate factor.

As noted above, the elements of a healthy egg-laying operation that you should certainly put stock into include good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Nutrition

chickens lay eggs without rooster

Egg laying chickens have specific nutrition requirements as opposed to younger chickens or chickens perhaps not intended for laying eggs. In order to promote egg laying it is important for your chickens to have sufficient food provided to them as well as to have high-quality food provided to them.

During the growing period, chicks should receive a diet promoting their rapid growth and development of feathers. Chickens reaching the laying stage do best on a “pre-lay” diet intended to increase the calcium and other nutrients in their diet.

Comparison shop different diets available to you to determine which is most suitable for your purposes. A diet with the right nutrients for egg-laying purposes will supply your hens with what they need to produce big, nutritious eggs.

A balanced diet is primarily important. If the chickens are not receiving adequate nutrition, then one of two things could happen. Either (1) your hens may experience delay in their egg-laying, or (2) they may stop laying eggs even once they’ve started.

Environment

An adequate environment is also essential to promoting laying in your chickens. This includes providing ample lighting, comfortable temperatures, adequate food, and ample water for the hens at all times.

  • If the hens run out of food for a substantial period of time it can impact their laying schedule and may delay how soon they begin laying. You should take care to ensure your hens always have fresh food available.
  • The same is true for water, which is one of the most essential nutrients for optimum poultry health. Fresh, clean water should always be available to your hens. Make sure that you keep the water clean and fresh on a daily basis as dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to health issues for your poultry.
  • In order to maintain healthy egg production, hens should receive around 14 hours’ worth of day length each day. The lighting intensity should be such that a person could read newsprint at the eye level of the birds. Because the length of the day naturally decreases in the fall and winter, this can have a profound impact on egg laying ability. One way that you can prevent this from being a problem is to install a light in the coop to artificially increase daylight hours.
  • Chickens do not do well in high environmental temperatures. They will succumb quickly to severe heat stress if you do not provide them with proper shade, ample water, and adequate ventilation. You can reduce the adverse effects that come with heat stress by providing enough ventilation and shade as chickens naturally do better in a cooler environment. As a result, it is likely that your hens will lay more effectively in a cooler, more comfortable environment.
  • The breeding box or coop should be kept as clean as possible in order to promote healthy egg-laying. It may be difficult to keep things clean during the laying season but it is important to try because a dirty coop can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other diseases and chickens can be prone to illness when improperly cared for.

do chickens lay eggs without a rooster

Age

Generally speaking, hens will begin to enter their egg-laying period around 18 weeks of age, however, as noted above this can vary somewhat depending on the breed of the chicken. The peak age for egg-laying comes at around 32 weeks of age and continues at this level until around 65 to 68 weeks of age.

There are breeds of chicken that will not begin laying eggs until a little later and so it is normal not to see egg-laying behavior begin until around six months. This will be discussed more fully in the “breed-specific” section below.

Hens Behavior During Laying

The behavior of your pullets will begin to change when they are nearing their initial lay, and so it is normal to get a feel for when this is going to happen. They may begin to investigate the nesting area, spend more time hanging around the rooster, or their typical behavior may simply deviate in other ways.

If your hens are starting to spend a lot of time with the rooster because they are nearing laying-age, you may need to make sure to separate the rooster from the nesting boxes

If your hens seem unsure about the nesting boxes one way that you can encourage their use is to place “decoy eggs” in the boxes in order to show the hens what they are meant for. If you do not have actual decoy eggs you can use golf balls or similarly sized balls to serve this purpose.

There are a lot of great resources available for building and setting up nesting boxes that will accommodate your chickens. There are also nesting boxes that will provide your hens with access to the rooster without compromising the eggs.

If your goal is to have your hens lay eggs, then it is important to motivate your chickens to lay by allowing them access to a rooster without necessarily allowing the rooster to fertilize the eggs.

In fact, once your hens begin laying you may find that having a rooster around does not motivate your hens to lay one way or another. You will not find that you can increase your hen egg production simply by exposing your hens to a rooster. You can have a perfectly healthy flock of egg-laying chickens all on their own without having any roosters around.

Do You Need a Rooster For Egg Production?

can a chicken lay eggs without a rooster

The ultimate answer is no, you do not need a rooster in order to raise egg-laying chickens. You will not notice an impact in egg production by adding a rooster to your flock of chickens, however, there are obviously other benefits of having a rooster around if you enjoy their presence. As noted above, however, it is important to only keep one adult rooster around at a time to prevent fighting from occurring.

Making the Decision to Get a Rooster

As noted above, when you fertilize your eggs and allow them to hatch into new chickens you run the risk of adding additional roosters to your flock.

When roosters are young it is possible for you to keep them together, however as they get older, they will begin to fight to the point where injuries are inevitable. The male birds can be beneficial for meat however you will need to know how to house them separately and how to handle them humanely if this is the route you take.

If you are interested in expanding your flock, there are other options available to you. Consider sourcing local chicks and hens for example rather than attempting to breed your own.

If you do decide to breed your own chickens then it will benefit you to do some additional research on what this entails and to find an outlet to sell or give away any additional male chicks before they come of age.